Travel as Creative Fuel
The lessons of great places are best learned through “design
By James Richards, ASLA
James Richards, ASLA
You’re a young designer. You want to become good—very
good—at what you do. Or perhaps you’re a seasoned professional, hoping to
rekindle that fire in the belly that has driven your best work. A word of
advice: Travel. Frequently. Widely. I know of nothing short of cutting a deal
with the devil himself that will jump-start passion and accelerate creative
skills faster than packing a bag and, in Mark Twain’s words, lighting out for
the territory ahead.
Many academic programs offer “study abroad” programs,
affording young designers the opportunity to pursue course work while immersed
in a foreign culture. The traditional “study abroad” model has its undeniable
benefits, and many have grown immeasurably from the cultural immersion
experience. But the travel model that’s been most beneficial to my work as a
designer has been a different, more intense kind than typically offered by
customary travel/study programs.
I call it “design immersion.” Its fundamental characteristic
is rapid exposure to the most instructive landscapes and best creative works a
region, country, or continent has to offer. These trips are characterized by an
ambitious itinerary and almost-perpetual motion so that the traveler is
immersed less in a particular culture than in the visual language of design,
which cuts across time and cultures. It is, in my experience, the designer’s
single best avenue of growth outside academic walls.
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